Lakers owner Jeanie Buss says losing Kobe Bryant is like losing a family member -- but credits KB and his daughter Giannawith helping her find her "purpose" in life.
Jeanie has known Kobe ever since her father (the late Jerry Buss) signed him as a rookie back in 1996 and they had remained extremely close ever since.
Jeanie took Kobe's death extremely hard and waited several days to collect her thoughts before putting out a statement ... and what she produced is touching, sad and inspirational all at the same time.
"Kobe, I don’t know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers," Buss wrote ... "My father loved you like a son, which makes us family."
"When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away [in 2013], I was struggling to find motivation and purpose," Buss admits.
"Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men."
"At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actuality -- and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing -- what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for. I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong."
Jeanie continued ... "I call on that memory whenever I feel down and need a bit of courage. For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination."
"Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri - I am so sorry for your loss. We are grateful to have you in our lives and we will always be here for you."
"To the families that also lost loved ones on Sunday, the entire Laker family mourns with you. Laker Nation - we are one family grieving the loss of people we all loved dearly. We will mourn together, cry together but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER. We love you."
Originally Published -- 10:00 AM PT
3:33 PM PT -- Lakers GM and Kobe's former agent, Rob Pelinka -- who was also Gianna Bryant's godfather -- also penned an emotional statement Thursday on Bryant's passing.
"On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter," Rob wrote. "With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul."
Pelinka added, "All of us touched by them will now try to become torch carriers of their legacies. And, while we do that, we can be certain of this: Kobe and Gigi will continue on, forever, playing a joy-filled game of basketball in heaven above."